"To be or not to be? That is the question.
Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, or to take up arms against a sea of troubles and by opposing end them?
To die, to sleep, and by sleep, end the heartache…'tis a consummation devoutly to be wished.
A single swing of the sword could end this torment! To sleep; perchance to dream. Aye, there's the rub. For in that sleep of death, what dreams may come? Thus conscience does make cowards of us all…"
- Hamlet, Shakespeare
Hot. He was hot.
Fire was everywhere, flames consuming the town. The air was thick with smoke and ash. The ground was littered with the bodies of innocent villagers; men, women, children. He was walking now, entering the last of the houses. He had not seen it, yet he knew he had driven everyone else out of their homes and slaughtered them. There was only one person in this house, a middle aged woman with long blond hair. Her startling blue eyes stared up at him, filled with horror and fear, the reflections of the flames dancing in them. A long thin blade stained crimson rose above his head.
No, don't kill her! She hasn't done anything! He shouted, but there was no sound. He had no voice; he was just a witness to the massacre.
Like a silver fang, the long blade sank into her body and through her heart. The woman died without a sound, her body falling to the floor.
He cried out in anguish, fighting, trying to free himself. Why couldn't he do anything? Why couldn't he control his own body?
And then he caught the sight of his reflection in the sword he held, framed by fresh dripping blood. A man stared back at him, with long silver hair that nearly reached his knees. His eyes were orbs of glowing green, flickering with insanity.
His reflection laughed. He screamed.
Kadaj sat up with a start, gasping. His pale skin was drenched in sweat. Immediately, his hands shot to his head, running his fingers through his hair. It only reached his shoulders. His hands moved to his face, running over the familiar curves and grooves. As final proof, he grabbed Souba from where it rested beside the cot and stared hard into blade. It reflected a terrified young man with short silver hair and green-blue eyes. Kadaj closed his eyes. Still panting, he let the double-bladed katana clatter to the ground.
He was himself. It had been a nightmare
It took a few minutes to collect himself. Slowly, his fear ebbed away, leaving only bitterness and self-loathing. He clenched his teeth, his hands curling into fists.
Even in sleep he wasn't free from Sephiroth. Rather, it was in sleep he seemed most vulnerable. Dreams had always haunted him, but now, they seemed to grow stronger in Sephiroth's wake.
It wasn't always the same nightmare; there were a few, a small handful that reoccurred over and over. But in all of them, he was imprisoned inside Sephiroth, forced to watch helplessly as the madman did as he pleased.
The dreams had never changed, but there had been a time not long ago when they did not torment him as much. Mother had convinced him humans were evil, selfish creatures, and that he should feel no pity for them. So he had felt little apathy towards the human race as a whole. However, even then, the delight that Sephiroth took in their suffering, the undiluted pleasure he showed while bathing in their blood, had made his stomach turn. The man was evil; and that, along with his growing jealousy, was the reason he loathed him.
Now, he had even more reason to hate Sephiroth…and to hate himself.
Kadaj lay back down on the cot, wincing as his bandages rubbed over his wounds. He was a far cry from being fully healed, something his walk through Costa del Sol had painfully reminded him. He had returned to the airship aching and exhausted, and headed straight to get some much-needed rest. The young man carefully shifted onto his back, and stared up at the ceiling. He did not want to return to sleep, or to the dark dreams that filled it. All he wanted was rest, and nightmare-strewn slumber wouldn't provide it.
There was a soft snore. Kadaj turned his head.
Yazoo and Loz were sleeping a few feet away. The Shera was large enough to house three small bedrooms; however, Kadaj insisted on sharing a room with his brothers. During their fight with Cloud, the Turks had collapsed a tunnel on top of them. Loz had managed to pull himself out, and dig out Yazoo, but both had sustained multiple injuries. Yazoo's concussion, and Loz's broken arm and sprained ankle, in particular, had kept them confined to the Shera.
A wave of guilt washed over him. After all, it was his rash, foolish decision that had gotten them hurt. Ever since he had rescued them from their tanks in the lab they had awoken in, his brothers had followed him without question. He had taken advantage of their trust, and put them in danger, all because Mother had told him to. And they did as he asked, because he told them to.
Kadaj turned his away from their sleeping forms, pressing his forehead against the cold wall, and sighed.
He loved his brothers dearly, but their unwavering loyalty to him was at times a double edged sword; they depended solely on him for guidance, and childishly believed he had all the answers. But the trouble was, he didn't have all the answers. Sometimes, they looked to him to lead them, and he just didn't know what to do. That's why he needed Mother.
Mother always knew what to do. At least, that was what he had thought.
But Mother had betrayed him. She had tricked him into reuniting with her cells, and reviving Sephiroth. He'd been trapped in his own body, forced to watch and listen as Sephiroth used him. Used him, then abandoned him.
Puppet, a voice taunted darkly in his mind, Puppet…puppet…puppet…
Kadaj gritted his teeth, his fists clenched so tightly they turned white and shook. It wasn't Sephiroth's voice in his head; it was his own.
Poor little puppet…can't think for himself…
Quiet, he thought furiously.
Puppet did everything Mother told him…
And Mother threw Puppet away…
I said be quiet!
Now Puppet has no one…no one wants poor broken Puppet…
"That's not true!" Kadaj whispered feverishly to himself, "It's not true! We don't need Mother. We can still be a family. We can still be whole!"
He lowered his voice, burying his head into the rough pillow.
"We just need to find sister."
A soft smile spread over his face, closing his eyes. He had only seen her once, and from a distance. She'd been standing on the beach, looking out at the ocean, her long silver hair reflecting the twilight colors of sunset. But when she had turned, he'd seen her face; she had been smiling. A serene, warm smile.
The Remnant kept the memory burning in his heart. Nayru was the only hope they had left. Mother had abandoned them, but sister wouldn't. She'd know what to do, what to say. Sister would comfort them; Sister would comfort him. She's give him the love that he and his brothers so desperately craved.
Kadaj lay there, silently repeating his sister's beautiful name over and over again, until it lured him back to sleep.
Yazoo was woken from his sleep by a sharp, searing pain against his face. He winced, quickly rolling onto his back. He had turned over in his sleep, and pressed the burned part of his face against the pillow. The sharp sting immediately vanished, instead replaced by the dull throbbing of his head. The Remnant exhaled wearily.
He was tired of this constant pain; though, at least he was able to move rather freely. Loz's wounds were more troublesome than his own. Kadaj had been moving around a great deal, though he shouldn't have. Yazoo frowned. He was worried about his brother, a sentiment he would not voice out loud, yet Kadaj knew just the same. That was why he kept reassuring him he was fine.
A light, almost inaudible sound reached his ears, and he carefully turned his head towards the door. It was open a crack. Two wide eyes were peering through it. There was a soft gasp, and the narrow opening threatened to close all together.
"Quick, Marlene, close it! Before they see us!" a boy's voice urged.
"A bit late for that," Yazoo said aloud, his tone aloof. The young eyes filled with fear.
"You can come in," a low voice invited. Yazoo turned.
Loz was sitting up in bed. He, too, ha d awoken, and was gazing curiously out at the visitors behind the door.
"Loz, brother is sleeping," Yazoo said, his monotone voice touched with reprimanding. The older Remnant blinked, and glanced at Kadaj's slumbering form. He turned back to the door.
"You can come in," he repeated, raising a finger to his lips, "But you have to be quiet."
Yazoo sighed. That hadn't been what he meant, but there was no use in trying to explain. Besides, he was bored.
"It isn't as if we bite," he offered unenthusiastically, "Come in and stare at us if you want."
The two eyes looked at each other.
"No, we can't go in there!" the boy whispered, "They're evil."
A look of shock crossed Loz's face.
"We're not evil!" he defended, sounding incredibly hurt.
"Loz, you're being loud," Yazoo reminded.
His brother whirled around to face him, wide-eyed, as if absolutely stunned at this accusation.
"But we're not!" he insisted, his voice a bit quieter.
The door opened, and in slipped a little girl with braided brown hair, wearing an angry scowl on her childish face.
"You hurt Tifa!" she said firmly, glaring at Loz.
His brother blinked at the tiny thing, before his eyes fell to the floor in shame.
"But I didn't kill her," he offered meekly.
Suddenly, a boy with brown hair appeared beside the girl, his brow furrowed into a similarly furious expression.
"That doesn't make it alright, you idiot!"
Loz looked back up, his wide eyes filling with tears. His bottom lip began to tremble.
"B-But…but brother told me to…!"
"Don't cry, Loz," Yazoo said simply.
"I'm not crying!" the other Remnant exclaimed angrily, turning away to hide his glistening eyes.
"You're being loud again," Yazoo murmured, raising a hand to motion toward Kadaj, "If you wake brother, he'll be angry with us."
That was the last straw. Loz's shoulders slumped, tears beginning to stream down his face. He bit his lip to keep from sobbing.
The sight of a grown man crying, even one who was a former enemy, seemed to unnerve the children. The young girl called Marlene slowly uncrossed her arms. After a few moments of watching the Remnant weep, the child crept forward to his bedside. Suddenly, she reached out her tiny hand and put it to the man's cheek, wiping away some of his tears.
Loz froze, staring at the girl in wonder.
Marlene stared at him hard for a few moments, before speaking.
"I'll forgive you if you say you're sorry, and promise to never do it again."
He blinked. He raised his large hand to engulf hers.
"I'm sorry," he sniffed guiltily, "I won't do it again."
"I promise," Loz assured, sincerity ringing in his voice.
To Yazoo's surprise, the little girl turned to him next, looking astonishingly serious for someone so young.
"Do you promise, too?"
Loz stared at him, his eyes beseeching and hopeful. Slowly, Yazoo nodded.
Immediately, her solemn demeanor was replaced by a cheerful smile. Behind her, the boy huffed, turning his head. The girl shot her brother a pleading look, similar to the one Loz had given him.
"Denzel…?" she asked quietly.
"I still don't trust you," the boy announced, eyeing the floor, "But…if Marlene forgives you, then so do I."
Loz's face lit up with an beaming grin. It struck Yazoo that his brother hadn't smiled since they learned of Mother's treachery. He didn't understand how a few sharp words from a child could reduce Loz to tears, or how a few comforting ones could make him smile. He doubted he would ever fully understand his emotional brother. Although…
…although it did feel good to be forgiven, even if only by two children. He realized that while he had been under the group's care, he had began to feel…what was it called? Yazoo had trouble with emotions, especially expressing or describing them. What was it? Guilt? Remorse? Yes, that was it. It was an emotion he had rarely experienced before, and he felt relieved to have the weight of it off his chest, even temporarily.
Suddenly, a gruff voice interrupted over the intercom.
"Hey, we're approaching the Golden Saucer. The damn theme park has shitty parking fer airships, so I'd sit down and strap in if I was you. That means you, ninja brat."
"Guess we better go," Denzel said, before slipping back out the door.
Marlene nodded, and moved to follow her brother. However, she paused in the doorway, and glanced back at Yazoo.
"I like your hair," she said shyly, "It's really pretty."
Then she vanished out the door.
Yazoo stared after her blankly. Had that girl just…given him a compliment? He couldn't remember ever having gotten a compliment before, at least not from someone other than brother. The Remnant blinked, and instinctively ran his fingers through his hair. His lips curled ever so slightly.
"Pretty," Loz snickered from over in his bed, a devilish smile plastered over his face.
"You're being loud again, Loz," Yazoo sighed, and rolled over on his side.